North Carolina tennis team's 9-year conference streak ends

For nine straight years, the Edenton Holmes (N.C.) High School girls tennis team rolled past each and every conference opponent that popped up. In the process, the appropriately named Aces won 112 straight Northeastern Coastal Conference matches, including the first two of their 2010 season. Last Thursday that streak came to a crashing halt at the hands of Elizabeth City Northeastern, which knocked off Holmes in dominant, 7-2 fashion.

"The string was going to end sometime; all good things come to an end," Edenton Holmes coach Dr. Allen Hornthal told The News & Observer, a North Carolina newspaper. "I knew Northeastern was very good. We beat them 6-3 and 5-4 last year, and they had most of their girls back. We have six new starters."

Those new starters couldn't quite cobble together a win out of a tough early season matchup, despite their coach's assurances they shouldn't feel the weight of the program's winning streak. Hornthal, a dentist by trade who built the most consistent 2A girls tennis program in North Carolina as a part-time job, didn't have enough time to replace key former starters like three-time regional champ Elizabeth Leary, pictured above, who helped pace the Aces against Northeastern last year.

While there might seem to be little gained from the end of an epic winning streak, Hornthal's program might finally see pressure dissipate, which could pave the way to later tournament success The Aces never won a Class AA state team title during their conference championship run, and only one of Hornthal's players -- Tanner Bloom in 2004 -- was able to reach the finals in singles competition.

Perhaps that will finally change now that the Northeastern Coastal Conference pressure is off. Even if it doesn't, Hornthal can look back on one of the more unique streaks in North Carolina history.

"The streak is a tribute to a good group of girls," Hornthal told the News & Observer. "It was quite a ride."

Photo taken from Flickr.

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